Nevada Gov. Sandoval says meeting with Trump officials ‘extremely positive’
Although he didn’t return with any significant commitments from the Trump administration, Gov. Brian Sandoval said Friday his trip to Washington, D.C., was “extremely positive.”
“It’s unprecedented for me to have face time with four cabinet members in two days,” Sandoval said, adding those meetings were set up on short notice.
He said it wasn’t just for a minute or two he talked with the Attorney General and secretaries of Interior, Energy and Interior. He said he had an hour or more with each to make Nevada’s case on a laundry list of issues from Yucca Mountain to sage grouse to mining site reclamation and education.
Sandoval said he was pleased at the level of access and cooperation he has had since Trump took office. He pointed to the two disaster declarations Nevada has received in the wake of January and February flooding.
Sandoval said he also has been told he will have a chance to sit down with President Trump in the near future and talk about Nevada issues.
He said, however, there are points where he and Trump representatives disagree, especially with his friend, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry who’s pushing Trump’s attempt to revive the Yucca Mountain dump project.
Sandoval said he told Perry “we are all supportive of a consent-based process and he’s got a community in (Perry’s) state that’s willing to take it.”
In Yucca, he said, “there will be no negotiation, no quarter.” Sandoval said the project is on fractured rock atop a geologic fault atop an aquifer and there’s no way it could ever be made safe to store high-level nuclear waste.
He said he also pointed out with the nuclear testing in the 1950s and ’60s, the plight of the “down winders” who suffered cancer and other health issues because of radioactive fallout from those tests, Nevada’s hosting Nellis, Fallon Naval Air Station and Creech AFB, Nevada has done its share.
He said he discussed the Anaconda mine site outside Yerington with EPA officials, urging them to let Nevada work out a deal to clean the mine pit with owner BP, overseen by the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection. He said that would be faster and cheaper than waiting for the federal government, which hasn’t acted in decades.
“We already have a system in place that can take care of this,” he said.
He said he opposes declaring it a Superfund site, which would have potentially devastating economic impact on Yerington and its surrounding agriculture industry.
Sandoval said he told Attorney General Jeff Sessions before declaring Las Vegas a sanctuary city, he should talk to Clark County’s sheriff because Metro already has an agreement with Homeland Security about handling illegal immigrants arrested in the south.
And he assured Sessions his administration is working to ensure the voter approved legalization of recreational marijuana “is as tightly regulated as possible.”
With White House staffers, he said he focused on Nevada’s infrastructure needs — especially Project NEON in the south, the Spaghetti Bowl in Reno, Apex in North Las Vegas, Tahoe Reno Industrial Center and the Interstate 11 corridor. Sandoval said he emphasized in asking for federal help, Nevada has already done considerable work to help itself. Clark and Washoe counties have approved fuel indexing to raise funding and the state has put the Governmental Services Tax revenue back in the highway fund budget.
“We are funding our roads,” he said.
He was present when Trump signed his executive order on education, which Sandoval said he supports because, “the more local control the better.”
With Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, he said he pointed out Nevada has a good plan in place to protect and restore sage grouse habitat and doesn’t need federal control.
He said Zinke seems to be headed in a different direction with BLM: “He wants people to see BLM rangers more as rangers protecting the parks and not as law enforcement.” He said he has invited the secretary to attend the Western Governors Association meeting this summer.
He said he urged Interior officials to leave the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act alone. That law sells urban parcels of federal land around Las Vegas and uses the cash to fund environmental efforts and purchases of private property to protect other areas — specifically in the Tahoe Basin. There have been several attempts over the years to take that Southern Nevada money and use it outside of Nevada.
“We want to keep the money for what it was intended for in the first place,” he said.
He said while he received few commitments from the administration officials he talked to, he has built some rapport with them and hopes to build on that and on mutual trust to ensure Nevada’s position on a wide range of issues is heard and considered by the Trump administration.